According to romantic lore, the first kiss has been the foundation of many a relationship throughout the ages. TLC's series "Love At First Kiss" matches two complete strangers to kiss one another, without prior interaction, to see if there's sexual chemistry. But what's the reality behind this reality TV show?
The series, created by the makers of "The Bachelor," first gauges whether couples feel an attraction during their first kiss, so they can then go on a two-minute speed date. If this is a success, then the couple can choose to go on a proper date. The show claims to put "smooching skills to the ultimate test," featuring new single people in each episode (plus returning contestants who did not find love the first time around).
“I think my strategy is just go for the kiss, maybe I'll be able to slip tongue, and then from there things take off and then who knows? Maybe she's my first girlfriend,” said Josh, a contestant who says he's never been romantically kissed before, in a promo.
Scientists agree that the first kiss can be make or break.
“Kissing someone can certainly give us feelings — if we like their touch, smell, and taste. This type of micro information can usually happen within a few seconds and can either turn us on or turn us off," Wyatt Fisher, a licensed psychologist in Denver, Colo., told Medical Daily.
When you kiss someone, it releases oxytocin, “the love hormone” which can arouse and relax you. It can also lead to an increase in dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of love and desire.
Studies show that saliva conveys key information about hormone levels, health, and genetic compatibility. Philematologists, people who study kissing, have found evidence that saliva has testosterone in it, and testosterone increases sex drive. Researchers believe men like sloppier kisses with more open mouth because they're unconsciously trying to transfer testosterone to stimulate the sex drive in women, or to assess women's fertility and estrogen cycle.
This suggests a bad kiss may mean more than nerves: It could be there's a fundamental lack of chemistry, and the kissers shouldn't bother to take the relationship any further.
A similar study found kissing helps us size up potential partners, and once in a relationship, it could be a way of getting a partner to stay with you. Women were more likely than men to rate kissing as important in a relationship. And men and women who rated themselves as being very attractive, or who had more casual encounters or short-term romances, also rated kissing as being more important. Those in long-term relationships said kissing was important at all times, whereas those in short-term romances said it was most important before sex and less important during and after sex.
Subconsciously, we're kissing to find long-term potential viability, but Wyatt suggests long-term compatibility is based on shared values and building solid emotional and social intimacy.
“So, while our first impressions from a kiss can provide some initial information, it cannot predict long-term viability of the relationship,” he said.